Saturday, December 10, 2011

Under The Vale - Ed. Mercedes Lackey

Under The Vale
Ed. Mercedes Lackey
Daw Books
Copyright: Dec. 6, 2011
978-0756406967

The back jacket description:
Valdemar's Heralds...
...are an ancient order. Chosen from all across the land, from all walks of life, and at all ages, these unusual individuals are Gifted with abilities beyond those of normal men and women. They are Mindspeakers, FarSeers, Empaths, ForeSeers, Firestarters, FarSpeakers, and more. Trained to be emissaries, spies, judges, diplomats, scouts, counsellors, and even warriors, their unique inborn talents make them indispensable to their monarch and their realm. Sought and Chosen by mysterious horselike Companions, they are bonded for life to these telepathic, enigmatic creatures. With their Companions, the Heralds of Valdemar ride circuit throughout the kingdom protecting the peace and, when necessary, defending their land and monarch.
Now, eighteen authors ride with Mercedes Lackey to her magical land of Valdemar, adding their own unique gifts to the Heralds, Bards, Healers, and other heroes of this well-loved fantasy realm.
Join Tanya Huff, Fiona Patton, Rosemary Edghill, Larry Dixon, Elizabeth Waters, Nancy Asire and others in seventeen original stories, including an all-new novella by Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon set in the magical land of Valdemar where:
A runaway orphan gets a chance for a new life in Haven...a human transformed into a magical creature struggles to reclaim his legal rights as a man...a Herald, blessed - or burdened - with a variant of the gift of Foresight that allows him to see through another person's eyes, witnesses an event so terrible that its memory is slowly killing him, and finds restoration in a very unexpected way.
Under the Vale is the annual anthology of Valdemar stories that comes out every December. I have to admit that I look forward to it every year and do my best to get my hands on it as soon as possible. Last year, with Finding The Way, that meant that I got it in e-book format, but this year I was able to get the paperback version.

With so many stories and authors, it's inevitable that there are going to be some that are my favourites, and I have to say, that a lot of the stories this year fit that category. I really liked Mercedes Lackey's story in this one - not always a given, I have to admit, given the story she wrote for Moving Targets. The twist she adds to this story just works really well. Elizabeth A. Vaughan's story In An Instant felt perfect too. The way she wrote the story - Queen Selenay's perspective on her new lifebond with Daren - felt like the characters as written by Mercedes Lackey.

Warp and Weft, by Kristen Schwengel (a name I don't recognize off the top of my head) is another story which peaked my interest, given my love of spinning. Not spinning in this story for the most part, but weaving, although there is a good side of spinning, but again, it worked within the world of Valdemar as Mercedes Lackey writes it.

As with previous anthologies, there are some continuing stories, two in particular: that of Ree, the hobgoblin in the Empire - two new stories here, both of which I really liked, and one set in the family of the Haven Watch. I like the continuity these bring to the books.

On the other hand, I missed reading Judith Tarr's story. She's had one in each of the previous several volumes, and I was hoping to see one here. I don't especially find that they fit within the magical structures of Valdemar as it's written, but I enjoy reading them anyway - one of the few places that Dressage features within stories.

Larry Dixon has added a fascinating essay - the first of it's kind in the Valdemar anthologies, but something I hope they continue adding to future volumes. This one was on how the Tayledras Vales are created and structured, both above and below ground - it's where the title for the book comes from, I think. Fascinating and detailed, and something I liked seeing, both as a fan of the series and to see how things work towards world-building - all of the details that the author has to figure out.

In my review of the last book, I lamented the loss of the introductions to the stories. This time, they're not there again, but there is a series of brief biographies of the various authors at the end of the book - not quite as entertaining, but there none the less.

Overall, this is definitely a fascinating read for any fan of the Valdemar series. I'd almost be willing to say that this is one of the best of the anthology collections to date, but it's been so long since I've read some of them that I can't say for sure. Definitely worth the money spent though.
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